Behave, Filipino workers in HK told

PHILIPPINES - Amid the diplomatic spat with Hong Kong, Philippine Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has advised Filipinos living and working in the Chinese territory to do their jobs well and behave.

The overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should "carry on with their commitment and dedication to work, continue to maintain good relations with their employers, and follow the rules and regulations of Hong Kong authorities", Baldoz said Thursday in a statement.

She also assured the OFWs their government was ready for "any eventuality" and would ensure their welfare and protection.

Baldoz's assurance came after Hong Kong scrapped on February 5 the visa-free travel privileges for Philippine diplomatic and official passport holders.

"OFWs are not going to be affected by the reported suspension," she said, adding that Filipino travelers who hold regular green and maroon passports are not covered by the suspension of the 14-day visa-free arrangement with the Philippines.

The secretary said the government was "ready to assist all OFWs, not just those in Hong Kong, in any eventuality through job placements in alternative markets in countries in coordination with the recruitment industry."

She said that access to livelihood and entrepreneurial projects under the National Reintegration Program for OFWs was also available at the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, a new office created under the Department of Labour and Employment.

"We have tailor-fit programmes for returning OFWs, OFWs in distress and even OFWs who, while in their work destinations, would like to engage in alternative livelihood for better income opportunities," Baldoz said.

The programmes include repatriation and welfare assistance, skills training and retraining, scholarships for OFWs and their dependents, psychosocial counseling, and livelihood and entrepreneurship.

The DOLE, Baldoz said, continues to intensify the implementation of its Balik-Pinay Balik-Hanapbuhay programme, which provides livelihood starter kits for small home-based businesses. - With a report from NiƱa P. Calleja